July 24, 2007

Second Half, er, Last 65 Game Preview

I was planning a wonderful second half preview, full of optimism and angst. 

 

After the wonderful start to the second half, well let's just say there is plenty of angst to post.  The Pirates have started the second half 1-8.  What more can be said? 

 

What I was looking for was a strong start to the second half building off of a nice ending to the first half.  I was hoping for a nice run of 7-2 in the first home stand of the second half and be talking about sniffing .500. 

 

Needless to say, 1-8 shot that to hell.

 

What I am going to do is give lists of:

Five things to watch for in the second half.

Five things to be wary of in the second half.

Five moves to pay attention to in the second half.

Five things to watch for in the second half.

  1. Bay, Nady and LaRoche getting hot together.  So far this season we have not seen all three hitting at the same time.  Nady has been the MVP of the team so far offensively, not really saying much, but he has handled the bat well.  LaRoche was coming on as the first half wound down.  Bay was as cold as he could be for June which has carried over into July.  IF all three get to swinging well, the offense will be something fun to watch as opposed to the brutal showing they have had since the break.  Will they ever hit together?
  2. Starting pitching.  It is easy to point out the two headed ace of Snell and Gorzelanny.  Maholm seems to have found the flaw in his mechanics and is looking like the Maholm we saw when he first came up to the Bucs.  Youman has been solid since his call up, likely solidifying a spot on the staff in 2008.  He is so level headed no matter the situation he is in.  Allegedly JVB has worked out his kinks by keeping his weight back when throwing his pitches and will be a key to watch in the second half.  Will the starting pitching be solid in the second half?
  3. Will Duke be healthy and back to the stud of 2 years ago?  He was scheduled to do his first long toss Monday.  A key to the Pirates success in 2008 is Duke getting his aggressive approach back and work the entire plate.  Will he get back on the mound or is this another pitching prospect that lands on the shelf after rehab fails and surgery is required?
  4. Who will take McClatchy's spot?  I nominate myself, sending my resume as we speak.  This one move will be the key to the Pirates future success.  If it is a Nutting-Buddy that is names, expect another 15 years of pain.  How many mirrors has this team broke to earn this much bad luck?
  5. Freddy will make a run.  Sanchez will make a last gasp effort to defend his batting title.

Five things to be wary of in the second half.

  1. Trades.  Littlefield is bound and determined to move Jack Wilson and pitching to stock the team full of offensive players.  He will set the Pirates back another couple years with his upcoming moves.  My bowels make better movements that this franchise has in the last 15 years.
  2. It will be announce that Bay has played a good portion of the season injured.  I am guessing his knee is bothering him again, but would not be surprised at a shoulder injury.  The guy never misses a game and has sat out quite a few games lately.
  3. The bullpen.  Recently they have performed well enough to be considered a bullpen again.  For a good portion of the first half, they were better described as kerosene.
  4. Paulino's demise.  At some point Doumit will be designated the future behind the plate.  Paulino is suffering through his sophomore slump, if he does not adjust, he will be relegated to a backup role at best. 
  5. After the naming of the new CEO of baseball operations, look for DL to resign.  It won't be an immediate resignation, he will make a few more bad trades before leaving.  He wouldn't want to ruin his legacy by having Izturis be his last move.  This also depends on who takes the CEO position.

Five moves to pay attention to in the second half.

  1. Izturis being moved to second base.  Freddy will be moved to third to help solidify the defense behind the pitchers.  Sadly, this will also improve the offense over Kata and Kelly playing third.
  2. Jose Catillo traded for a low level minor league middle reliever never to be heard from again.  Castillo will go on to be an offensive spark plug for years to come on the team he is traded to, realizing that awesome power we are always told will come.
  3. Jack Wilson traded.  The gamble will be Bixler being ready to step in.  As insurance the Pirates will exercise their option on Izturis or sign him for two or three years.
  4. A starting pitcher being traded.  Everyone wants to talk about Snell being traded, but he is the only right-hander in the rotation.  I would look more towards one of the older "prospects" to be moved.  Even worse, a left handed pitcher being moved for another power bat.  What lefty would draw a potent bat?  I'll give you a hint, his nick name is very close to the nickname of the pitcher traded for LaRoche, you remember Gonzo...Gorzo could be next.  This will be yet another bad deal in the illustrious history of the current ownership group.
  5. Bullpen arms left and right.  I would expect at least two of the following to be traded by the true trade deadline: Marte, Torres, Kuwata, Grabow and Chacon.  Kuwata would be a favor to get him some playoff chase experience in his last hoorah as a professional pitcher.  The rest would be a nice addition to any bullpen, Grabow and Marte could land the best return.  The only one I would say is a definite to be traded is Chacon.

The second half could be interesting, some additional predictions for the second half:

  1. McLouth may be landing the starting CF job until someone is traded for or McCutchen gets the call up.  You know the call up is coming before it should happen.  Duffy is toast and could be traded to a team in need of a leadoff bat.
  2. Bixler will arrive soon and struggle immediately.  He is closer that McCutchen, but neither is ready.
  3. At least one pitcher will be sat down with a tired arm before August 20th.  Gorzy?
  4. Jim Tracy will briefly show emotion before falling asleep on the bench.
  5. The middle three in the order will get hot for a 10 game stretch where the Pirates win 9 of 10 to show signs of "growth" and build
  6. false expectation going into 2008.
  7. Jack Wilson will get his arse kicked by a peanut vendor.

My final prediction is 73 wins, down from my 75-78 win preseason guess.

 

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